Drivers are an integral part of Microsoft operating systems: software components that help your computer use its various hardware features … or any new devices that you buy and attach.
This makes drivers very important for managing external data as well as internal functions. Over time, they can steadily lose their relevance if they’re not updated. Generally speaking, you don’t need to update a driver if nothing is wrong, but if you’re noticing problems with important devices or functions, it may be time to search for an upgrade.
Here are some of the most common ways to find the right driver installations, and important considerations for each method.
1. The device itself
From USB to printer drivers, most devices include a download that automatically provides the necessary software when you’re first connecting the device to your PC. Sometimes (although this is increasingly rare) you have a CD with software included on it.
You may be prompted to visit a company website and download from there. Typically, driver software that comes with a device is not very dependable; it tends to be old and obsolete compared to online versions. But if your device is not installing properly, reinstalling the original drivers could be the solution to your problem.
2. The operating system
If you want an easy way to update drivers, look at your Windows operating system. In the Device Manager or a related Windows tool, you will see all the drivers that need to be updated, and you can ask Windows to update your drivers itself.
This does not necessarily mean you will get the latest drivers, but it will provide you with the best updates that Windows can find, and compatibility will probably not be an issue.
3. An aggregation website
Fortunately, others have already done a lot of the work for you. If you want a driver for any external advice, try using a generic search to see what pops up. Some sites will help you quickly locate the right drivers for your operating system with a minimal amount of fuss. They’ll get your downloads in a short amount of time with easy instructions. If you can find a site that does the work for you, use it!
4. Your computer brand site
Sometimes it can be more difficult to locate the driver that you want. In those cases, it’s time to visit the website from which you bought your computer or the brand website that your device belongs to. Dell, HP, Logitech, Lenovo … you get the idea. They may have driver downloads available or at least provide a quick link to the right place to find them.
5. The chipset manufacturer
These brands have the latest drivers up in record time, since they’re the ones responsible for bringing it to market. Search for your particular chipset model to locate the right drivers. However, you may want to approach this option carefully: the very latest driver updates may come with bugs or compatibility issues. It may actually be preferable to get an older, smoother version.
6. The hardware manufacturer
If you want to go a further step down the supply chain, you can look for the hardware manufacturer itself — the company that makes the actual video card, motherboard, or other hardware component. You can’t get any closer to the source than this.
Many of these manufacturers offer advanced update options that let you customize the update in various ways, to add features or ensure compatibility … as long as you know what you’re doing.